Kari Steele

Kari Steele

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Here's the SPF Number You Should Buy This Summer, According to Doctors

During the summer, millions of Americans who love to enjoy the hot sun should do their best to protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet rays by following strict sunscreen practices. 

What SPF should your sunscreen have?

Find out how it may help premature aging and skin cancer. 

Roughly one in five Americans would eventually develop some form of skin cancer over their lifetime, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) said in a 2022 report.

However, the organization recommended that individuals can reduce the risk by wearing protective clothing while outside, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats and sunglasses, as well as seeking shade. 

Moreover, sunscreen can also help individuals avoid developing wrinkles and help stop age spots. Read below to find out the best practices regarding sunscreen before you go out this summer. 

What SPF should your sunscreen have?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, one that is SPF 30 or higher and is also water-resistant. 

"SPF" stands for sun protective factor, but many people think the number relates to the time of solar exposure. 

Yet this is not correct, said Dr. Darrell Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine and a former president of the American Academy of Dermatology, during a 2022 interview with Fox News Digital

"For example, many consumers believe that, if they normally get sunburned in one hour, then an SPF 15 sunscreen allows them to stay in the sun 15 hours (i.e., 15 times longer) without getting sunburned. This is not true because SPF is not directly related to the time of solar exposure but to [the] amount of solar exposure," the Food Drug and Administration (FDA) said.

The SPF number tells how long the sun's UV radiation will take to cause a sunburn when using sunscreen (as directed) compared to the amount of time without sunscreen, Rigel said.

"Because SPF values are determined from a test that measures protection against sunburn caused by UVB radiation, SPF values only indicate a sunscreen's UVB protection," the FDA said.

Rigel encourages the use of SPF of 50 or higher, as many people only put 25%-50% of the required amount of sunscreen to reach the SPF amount on the label. So if they are applying SPF 15 or SPF 30, they might be getting less protection than expected.

What areas of the skin need sunscreen?

Rigel recommends applying sunscreen on all exposed skin, taking special care to not forget the nose, as roughly a third of all skin cancers are on the nose because it "sticks out." 

"Most adults need about 1 ounce – or enough to fill a shot glass – to fully cover their entire body. Don't forget to apply to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears, and the top of your head," the AAD said. 

Rigel said most people will need to reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes, but sweating or swimming may require more frequent intervals.  

He told Fox News Digital that no sunscreen is "waterproof" because all sunscreens will wash off, but sunscreens are labeled "water-resistant" or "very water-resistant." 

Woman with sunburn

Photo: Getty Images

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